Monday, August 25, 2008
The government of Malawi has introduced a 10 percent surtax on mobile phone airtime starting from 1 July 2008. At the same time it scrapped off import tax on cell phones being sold by mobile phone operators TNM and Zain Malawi (formerly Celtel Malawi). Hence TNM is selling its NOKIA 1200 phones at MK3800 while Zain Malawi is selling its ZTE phones which have been dubbed “Mose wa lero” phones at MK2800 (USD20). The ZTE have been dubbed "Mose wa lero" because they say this is an initiative of the government of President Bingu "mose walero" Mutharika.
Clearly these cheap phones are a success story in Malawi! Almost every Jim and Jack is now owning a mobile phone. Farmers, students,..., can now own a phone. However, the 10 percent surtax on mobile phone airtime has made airtime to be very expensive. As a result, many people will agree with me that most of the times their mobile phones do not have enough credit to call out. They only have credits for "flashing" which is sad because a mobile phone is supposed to be for calling out as well as receiving calls…not just receiving calls.
Nevertheless, despite the introduced 10 percent surtax on air time, in my opinion I have always felt that mobile phone air time in Malawi is just too expensive. In addition to this, the charges are not transparent. A mobile phone user does not clearly know how much they are charged per minute/second etc at a particular time. As mobile phone users we clearly need to have this information. I hope the Consumers Association of Malawi (CAMA) will take up this issue.
I am glad that soon we shall have two more mobile phone operators. I think it was recently announced that licenses have already been granted. Yes, these operators need to roll out their networks quickly so that they increase competition among the mobile phone operators. Otherwise we are tired of the unjustified exorbitant airtime charges by TNM and Zain Malawi ( formerly Celtel). Capitalism at work?